13abc Salutes Black History Month: Jim Parker - 13abc.com Toledo (OH) News, Weather and Sports

13abc Salutes Black History Month: Jim Parker

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Many consider him to be the greatest lineman to ever play pro-football, but many don't know the story behind "Big Jim Parker"   His story is just one of the many featured at the African American Legacy Project of Northwest Ohio.

Jim Parker was born in 1934 in Macon, Georgia. He was one of 6 kids.  When Parker turned 18, He hitch hiked to Toledo. Robert Smith from the African American Legacy Project tells 13ABC,  "they were supplementing a family on 28 dollars combining work from 2 kids...so parker struck out on his own to find new ground and territory." 

Parker enrolled in Scott High school. Although his first love was basketball, his skill in football would ultimately change his life.  One day while working as a valet, He had an encounter with a young Ohio State Coach by the name of Woody Hayes.

Smith tells 13abc,  "The owner of Babcock dairy pointed to Woody Hayes and said "Hey there's the best football player in Toledo" and they got together.  Parker would become the first African American to stay in a dorm at The Ohio State University.  

From 1954 through 1956 Parker played on both offensive and defensive lines. Parker known for his size, strength, and quickness used his talents for clearing a path for running backs. Parker would help Hayes win his first national championship in 1954 and in 1956 Parker won the Outland Trophy.

Smith tells 13ABC,  "Woody Hayes had stopped him one day and said are you better today than you were yesterday?...Parker said no and so Hayes made him run laps ... and Parker said that stuck...so what he did in his life ...is learn how to move yourself forward each and every day." 

In 1957 Parker was selected by the Baltimore Colts in the first round of the NFL draft. Parker would receive many accolades for his skill on the field. In 1973 Parker was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Parker credits Toledo in turning his life around and making his football career a success. Big Jim Parker died in 2005.

The African American Legacy Project is located on Upton Avenue.  If you'd like donate to the AALP or book a tour call 419-720-4369.

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